Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Happy Feet

No. This isn't about the movie. It's actually about my battle with change. How I'm aching for it, as if I need to being doing something other than what I'm doing. And that I need to do that NOW.

I love my job. I do. But, I feel like I should be doing something else. Possibly somewhere else. There are still things I can accomplish where I'm at but they involve paperwork.  Which I hate, which you can tell from this blog.  Doing the reading sure, but the reviews? Not so much. 

I've been here before.  A little under two years ago.  But I didn't follow through with myself.  Sad, I know.  I blame it on my ADHD. Which I should get help for, but I can't remember to do that during working hours...never-ending cycle.  Anyway.  My dream of owning a bookstore keeps coming back to me. Now that Borders has closed here, only Barnes and Noble's sells new books.  We have a few used indie bookstores and one that sells new books but it's actually staffed by Notre Dame University and run by Follett Books, so not really independent IMO. 

There are quite a few bookstores within 50 miles of us, two actually specializes in kid's books.  So, I will have to visit them over Spring Break.  And maybe I can get a part-time job selling books.  Maybe that will cure me or be the change I'm looking for or maybe I'm just bored. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Battle of the Books - Round 1 - Hinds VS Williams-Garcia

Have you read the judges decisions?  Check out what Francisco Stork, Dana ReinhardtBarry Lyga and Susan Patron have to say about some of this year's books.  Such a mix of writers! I'm happy to say I've read at least one of all of their books and you should too!  Weirdly, I don't really remember what my votes were but I think I'm 3-1.  How are you doing?  Check out some first half of the contest stats at What We Read and Write, such cool charts!

Now, on to the match!

The OdysseyThe Odyssey by Gareth Hinds
I have fallen in love with graphic novels.  So much so, that I joined The Graphics Novel Challenge! Oh, sure, I'm not reviewing them but I am reading them! That counts right? Anywho, it's been one billion years since I've read the Odyssey but I must say this was the sexiest version I'd ever encountered.  I mean the guys and ladies are buff! Unfortunately, that's all I can remember right now and I don't have the book here because I lent it to a teacher! Sorry Mr. Hinds!

One Crazy Summer (Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (Awards))One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
I reviewed this one back in June and you can read my full review.  Here's an excerpt:

"We didn't come for a revolution. We came for breakfast." 

One Crazy Summer was not about the Black Panthers but about family and what it means. How family comes in forms we are not always ready for. How sometimes it just might be necessary to take care of yourself first. Or not.

There were times when I felt Delphine's voice was too grown-up but when I thought about her years of taking care of her younger sisters, of sitting around with Big Ma watching the news, of pretty much raising herself, I understood that she would say those things and act that way. Her eleven year-old inner self was in a battle with her forced to be older behavior.

Gareth Hinds does a good job of making an old story seem new and I can see students flocking to this book. I've been creating our graphic novels section - we mostly had manga - by adding titles from ALA's list and other places. This will be included but, Rita Williams-Garcia makes historical fiction interesting.  She details the people instead of the historical event. So, I gotta go for One Crazy Summer.  I know it's won it's share of awards - Newbery Honor, 2011 Notable Children's Book, National Book Award Finalist, and Coretta Scott King Award!  It even won an honor from the students in my Mock Newbery Club!  I really think it deserves to go the next round!

The cover of this book is pretty childish though and I really hope they change that for the paperback! No self-respecting middle schooler wants to pick it up. The Newbery clubbers and I worked hard to get others to read it, including tempting students with Jumped!

I'm giving the nod to
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Battle of the Books - Round 1 - Whalen VS Wiles

The Judges have been announced and we know which books they will read.  Now, it's just a matter of trying to figure out which way their votes will go.  Will Mitali Perkins (Bamboo People) pick Trash or Will Grayson, Will Grayson?  Will Dana Reinhardt (Harmless, Things a Brother Knows) pick Conspiracy of Kings or Countdown?  I don't know, but I have my dreams!!

A Conspiracy of KingsA Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner 
Note: This is the fourth book in the series and I read them back to back. Not that it matters but, you know, full disclosure and such.

Conspiracy opens with a prologue of Sophos and Magus and they are spitballing the King as he passes in a parade.  Turns out, he's a friend of theirs.

Sophos then launches into the story of How A Boy Becomes A King.  He takes us back, all the way back to his training and how he was betrayed and sold.  As he is telling us this story, we sense a sort of holding back, as if he is sitting behind a glass wall, holding a phone, and we are on the other side, listening.  We hear him and see him, but we are not really with him.  He has to tell us this while keeping in some strong emotions, he lost a few close family members during this saga and was gutted emotionally by those he trusted.  He was lost to himself and us.

"What could I do but go quietly?"

As we tend to do when unhurried and unfettered by excess responsibilities, Sophos learns a lot about himself while enslaved.  He relaxes into this way of life and uncovers his strengths.

My previous life just seemed to slip away...Something about the careful choosing and positioning of stones, something about the way way something so durable grew out of an accumulation of small decisions, filled me with satisfaction."

But, you know you can't hide from life. "My father said, 'Your uncle is dead.' The magus said, 'You are Sounis.'" Sophos has become a King in his own right but wrong in the eyes of those he loves best.

So, we come to the point where we have these three "friends", King Sophos, King Eugenides, and Queen Eddis, and they have to figure out how to unite their countries and avoid war.  They are young but there is so much more at stake than just their friendships.

And we are not even half done with the book! Turner hooks you and pulls you in slowly, you don't even know you've been caught.  Then, while you swim, she starts slowly turning up the heat.  A Conspiracy of Kings is a great fantasy that really isn't.  It has war, betrayal, friendship, and love just like life.  This is a story of trust and the building, and possible destroying, of kingdoms.

CountdownCountdown: The Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles 
"I am eleven years old, and I am invisible."
So begins the story of Franny. Well, after about 20 or so pages of document excerpts and pictures.  Countdown is not just a book to be read, but experienced. Interspersed are pictures, flyers, brochures, quotes, and other things that serve to bring the sixties to life.  On the hardcover, there's a record and you can actually feel the ridges.  The endpapers are also griddy.  The paper is smooth, creamy off white.  It all screams, this is not just a book, it's a documentaryhistoricalfictionally thingamob.  You need to see it.

Franny not only goes to school during the Cuban-Missile Crisis, she belongs to a military family.  My full review is here but a little excerpt:

Fifth-grader Franny is on the outs with her best friend, Margie.  Her Uncle Otto is starting to lose his mind.  Jo Ellen, her older sister, is disappearing longer and longer each day.  Franny's life is falling apart and she's not sure why.  The constant air raids and news of the missle crisis has everyone on edge.  There is one bright spot though, Chris Cavas has moved back to the neighborhood and although she's having a tough time with Margie, maybe Chris can be her new friend.

Franny's is a military family.  Her dad is a pilot and her uncle is retired from the military.  They live in a neighborhood with other military families.  It is their life.  When President Kennedy comes on the news talking about the Russians stockpiling weapons, it changes things in many ways for these families.  Everyone is on high alert.  The stress proves to be too much for Uncle Otto and the family is afraid of what he will do next or what will happen to him.

Countdown feels just like that, a countdown to what has to be a war and like Franny, we want to avoid it.  But we also want to live a normal life.  Wiles puts us inside Franny's "normal life" and teaches us about being fearless in a world filled with fear.

The Winner?
Both books deserve to be in your library as they are in ours.  Turner's tale goes back and forward and sideways so that we can clearly see all sides of  the story.  We start in the middle, go  backwards and then go forward.  Along the way we get a glimpse of how a country could be run. Wiles' story is straightforward and the storyline relentlessly moves us forward, sort of like a march.

Although I enjoyed the backmatter and internal matter of Countdown, at times it felt like an intrusion.  I found myself skipping over some of it and coming back to it later.  But I never really wanted to revisit Franny's story, as captivating as it was while reading.  A Conspiracy of Kings has survived quite a few readings for me.  I had to force myself to put it down to finish this post! I find myself trying to figure out what Sophos is hiding; what is he holding back from me?  And Eugenides is as intriguing as a King as he was a thief.  I love that we have these three friends in power positions and how it changes them in subtle ways. Cause no matter how much you value the friendship of others, your family and it's needs must always come first.  Or must it?  This is a book, nay a series, well worth the week it will take to read all four books twice!!

I'm giving the nod to
  A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.  

What do you think?

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel - Review and Giveaway

Beatrice and Virgil: A NovelBeatrice and Virgil
Yann Martel
Spiegel&Grau (Random House imprint)
197 pg + 13 Games for Gustav

Henry has been working on his second novel.  More of a "flip book"; one half is a nonfiction essay and the other is the book.  Both cover the same subject and neither can do without the other.  Henry is being flown to the states to meet with a team regarding his book.  He's excited until he realizes they are not praising him.  Discouraged, he moves his wife across the ocean, somewhere abroad, to start over.

Throughout their stay, Henry takes a variety of jobs but not writing.  Until he receives a small package from someone near him.  They don't know how close he is especially since Henry has always used a pseudonym. The package contains a short story by Gustave Flaubert, an excerpt from a play, and a short cryptic note signed by someone also named Henry.  This Henry turns out to be a taxidermist, "it's dying. The taxidermy business is a dying business."

Let me just say, this is not what I had in mind.  Beatrice and Virgil includes lots of killing.  Lots and lots of animal killing that is described in detail.  It includes a play, titled Beatrice and Virgil, that I understood on a purely cerebral level but rejected emotionally.  Throughout, I alternated between seeing what Martel was trying to do, at least out of the corner of my eye, and trying to figure out why he was doing it.  Often, I just didn't feel I was bookish enough to appreciate what I'm sure was a complex and many layered tale.

It was a story about Henry the writer, wrapped around a story about Henry the taxidermist, tied up with a play about Beatrice and Virgil - all of which left me feeling creeped out.  There was a moment when I questioned whether the Henries were one and the same, that maybe writer Henry was so distraught he became taxidermist Henry to approach his story a different way.  I wasn't correct but I was close. Throughout the novel I felt Martel himself leaking into the story - telling me what to think and feel, a little too conspicuous. Overall, Beatrice and Virgil was thought-provoking and makes me want to read Dante but not anytime soon.

Random house is giving away a copy of Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel.  Please enter your name and email address in the form to enter the drawing.  Drawing ends Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 11:59pm.

About The Author

Yann Martel is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi.

Connect with Yann Martel
Beatrice and Virgil website
Yann Martel Facebook

TLC Book Tour Stops
Luxury Reading
In The Next Room
Full Tour Schedule

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Random House.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Spring Break Bookaday

This Girl Is DifferentGearing up for Spring Break - only 18 more days! - and started compiling my Spring Break possible reads. Spring Break runs April 2 - April 11, that's nine days. It also encompasses Dewey's 24 hour Readathon!  I should be able to read at least 5 more books during that time for a total of 14 books which I will round to 15! So my goal is to read 15 books during Spring Break and my tentative list includes, in no particular order:

  1. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  3. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
  5. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
  6. Across The Universe by Beth Revis
  7. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
  8. Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
  9. Twilight Robbery by Francis Hardinge
  10. Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
  11. Junonia by Kevin Henke
  12. This Girl is Different by JJ Johnson
  13. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
  14. Red Glove by Holly Black
  15. Wheels of Change by Sue Macy
  16. Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
  17. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  18. Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry
  19. Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee
  20. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  21. Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  22. The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
  23. Classic from my challenge list
  24. Graphic novel from my challenge list
  25. POC from my challenge list
Ok, that's 25 titles, sort of,  pretty much off the top of my head.  Some of those books are in my house right now so may not last until Spring Break!  I also need to check up on my school year 40 book reading challenge to see what I still need to read. 

When is your Spring Break and what will you be reading?  Will you participate in Dewey's 24 hour Readathon?  Two twitter hashtags to follow #bookaday #readathon

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Invisible Line by Daniel J. Sharfstein - DNF

The Invisible Line
Daniel J. Sharfstein
The Penguin Press
330 pgs + End Notes.
This book chronicles the lives of three black families that, for various reasons, decided their lives would be better if they passed as white. It's a topic that I'm fully committed to learning more about. But I couldn't finish the book at this time.

Sharfstein's writing is detailed and insightful with a touch of humor. Unfortunately, even though I set aside three days to read this only slightly longer than 300 page tome, I couldn't get into it. I need more time and less distractions.

I will return to this book in early summer but it's just not the right book for me right now.  Please stop by some of the blogs below for reviews and stop by the publisher's site to read an excerpt!

TLC Book Tours
Book Club Classics
Scraps of Life
Full Tour

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Penguin Press for this HC.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Working My Way Back You - February 2011

Okay for NowI've been insanely crazy busy this past month and I'm still reeling! I've read some but mostly I've watched movies.  But I'm staging a comeback starting with a wrap up of February!

Here's to my success!

Challenge Update
POC Reading Challenge (9)
Lost and Found by Shaun Tan
Voices by Ursula LeGuin
Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
Taking Sides by Gary Soto
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch

Debut Author Challenge (7)
Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge
Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
The  False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Graphics Novel Challenge (6)
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
Lost and Found by Shaun Tan
Knights of the Lunch Table by Cammuso
Empire State by Jason Shiga
Janes in Love by Cecil Castelluci
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch

Overall (23)
3 Adult
6 Middle Grades
14 Young Adult

Best Book - Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

Numbers-wise, I'm doing ok on my challenges but I'm failing miserably on the review front and that needs to change. So I'll work on that.


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